How to Wash and Care for a Mattress Protector
A mattress protector guards your mattress against penetrating stains, dust mites, and pests such as bedbugs—and it can also add a layer of comfort. It's important that this protector be washed occasionally to keep it functioning as intended. Mattress protectors come in many styles, ranging from simple cloth pads that lay atop the mattress and beneath the fitted sheet, to zip-up enclosures with pillow tops that completely encase the mattress. No matter what style you have, they are all fairly easy to wash at home.
However, the proper way to wash a mattress protector depends on the type of material used for its construction. Cloth protectors can be made of single-layer fabric such as cotton, wool, puffy down-filled quilted material, or completely waterproof polyethylene plastic. Each type has a slightly different method for washing, so always review the care label on the protector.
What You'll Need
Equipment / Tools
- Washer or bathtub
- Dryer, drying rack, or clothesline
- Wool dryer balls (optional)
- Soft-bristled nylon brush
- Regular laundry detergent
- Enzyme-based stain remover (optional)
- Down wash (if down-filled)
|How to Wash a Mattress Protector|
|Detergent||Regular laundry detergent or down wash|
|Water Temperature||Warm or cold|
|Cycle Type||Normal or bulky|
|Drying Cycle||Normal or low|
|Special Treatments||Air-dry polyurethane protectors|
|Iron Settings||Does not require ironing|
|How Often to Wash||Monthly or when stained|
How to Wash a Mattress Protector
Remove the Bedding and Read the Label
Remove all of the bedding from the bed to access the mattress protector. Then, remove the protector from the mattress. Every mattress protector has a care label that will direct you in choosing the correct washing and drying temperatures.
Inspect and Treat Stains
If there are visible blood, food, or drink stains, treat them with an enzyme-based stain remover or a dab of good laundry detergent. Work the stain remover into the mattress protector with a soft-bristled nylon brush. Let the stain remover sit on the stain for at least 10 minutes to begin breaking apart the molecules before you wash the protector.
Select and Add the Detergent
Your regular laundry detergent works well for washing every type of mattress protector fabric except down-filled protectors. For down-filled protectors, you'll need to use a down cleaner like Granger's Down Wash or Nikwax Down Wash. These products are formulated to remove soil and odor while protecting the moisture-repellent qualities of the feathers. If you do not have down wash available, use a gentle and low-sudsing detergent. Harsher detergents can strip the feathers of their natural oils.
Do not use chlorine bleach or dry clean a waterproof mattress protector. The chemicals can damage the waterproof quality of the protector.
Select the Water Temperature and Washer Cycle
Warm or cold water is the best choice for washing mattress protector fabrics. Use the normal or bulky items cycle. The bulky cycle has a slower final spin speed to help keep your washer in balance. You should wash the protector on its own to avoid damage.
Select a Drying Method
Most mattress protectors can be dried on a drying rack, clothesline, or in a dryer on the normal, timed cycle. One exception is a polyurethane or waterproof protector—it should be air-dried or dried on very low heat. Down-filled protectors should be dried on low heat with wool dryer balls added to the dryer to help keep the feathers from clumping.
Always be sure that the mattress protector is thoroughly dried before placing it back on the mattress. Trapped moisture could cause problems with mildew growth on the mattress.
What Is a Mattress Protector?
There are three basic styles of mattress protectors, and each style may include variations. Any of these styles can be available as a down-filled pad, and they can be made from natural fibers, synthetic fibers, or waterproof polyurethane.
- Zippered encasement: This protector covers the entire mattress from top to bottom. It is the best protector to prevent bed bug infestations and dust mites from settling in the mattress.
- Fitted: Designed similar to a fitted sheet, the protector slips over the top of the mattress and tucks under with fitted pockets.
- Elastic strap: The mattress protector is held onto the top of the mattress with elastic straps that anchor it at each corner.
Treating Stains on a Mattress Protector
Considering that it is generally hidden beneath a mattress's fitted sheet, a mattress protector that has some visible stains but is otherwise clean and hygienic is not a catastrophe. But if you want a completely pristine mattress protector, the most common staining agents are generally easy enough to remove using an enzyme-based stain remover, or even by presoaking with ordinary laundry detergent rubbed into the spots.
Here are some solutions for specific stains:
- Urine stains can be removed by soaking the stain with a solution made of 1 quart of lukewarm water, 1 tablespoon of dish soap, and 1/2 tablespoon of ammonia. Soak the stain for 15 minutes, run the stain to loosen it, then soak again for another 15 minutes before machine-washing the protector.
- Blood stains often respond to soaking the stain with cold saltwater. After a few minutes of soaking the stained area, blot it up with a sponge, and then machine-wash the protector.
- Coffee or tea is best removed with an enzyme or oxygen spray cleaner.
Mattress Protector Care and Repairs
Small rips or loose elastic straps can be repaired by hand or with a sewing machine. Waterproof protective coverings should be replaced if they become torn. It is usually more cost-effective to replace a zippered encasement protector with a broken zipper than to have the zipper replaced.
Storing a Mattress Protector
Mattress protectors should be folded like a fitted sheet or rolled for storage in a linen closet. Be sure that the protector is thoroughly dry before storing.
How Often to Wash a Mattress Protector
Since the mattress protector is covered by the bottom sheet, it only needs to be washed once a month. Allergy sufferers will find it helpful to wash the mattress protector every two weeks, and the protector should be washed more often if someone has a cold or viral illness. However, if there has been a spill or a bedtime accident involving blood or urine, the protector should be washed immediately.
Tips for Washing a Mattress Protector
- It's a good idea to have two mattress protectors for each bed so you will have a clean one on hand if you don't have time to wash and dry the protector before the bed is needed again. Having an extra protector is particularly helpful for cribs, the beds of small children, or bed-bound adults.
- If a protector's care tag says it should not be washed, it is usually out of concern that the item will shrink in the wash. You can still clean it by hand-washing, then air dry. Make sure the protector is completely dry before returning it to the mattress.
- Running two rinse cycles will ensure that all remnants of detergent are removed. This can be important for sleepers with skin that is sensitive to detergents.
Can I wash a mattress protector labeled as waterproof?
Yes. Follow the instructions above, but make sure to wash in cold water and set the dryer to low heat.
How much does a mattress protector cost?
Mattress protectors can cost as little as $10 for a simple water-proof protector for a crib mattress or twin bed, to several hundred dollars for a down or wool protector that's thick enough to provide extra cushioning.
Can I wash in hot water and dry at high heat if there is a bedbug problem?
While hot water and a hot dryer are generally recommended for ridding bedding of bedbugs, these extreme temperatures can damage or shrink some mattress protectors. Instead, wash the protector twice in warm water and dry for an extra long time at a medium dryer setting. Bedbugs are killed by temperatures above 122 degrees Fahrenheit, and this is generally achieved by warm water and medium dryer heat.
For many dryer manufacturers, the medium temperature (permanent press) setting produces 135-degree temperatures, more than sufficient to kill bedbugs.